A gunman opened fire as hundreds of people stood outside after a high school graduation ceremony Tuesday evening in Richmond, Virginia, killing two people and wounding five others, the city’s interim police chief said.
As merriment turned to terror around Richmond’s Monroe Park, other people were hurt as they tried to escape the gunfire, including a 9-year-old girl who was hit by a car, Richmond Interim Police Chief Rick Edwards told reporters Tuesday night.
Police initially detained two people but later said one was not involved. The other – a 19-year-old who investigators think may have known one of the victims and had four handguns – was held Tuesday night and police will recommend two counts of second-degree murder against him, Edwards said.
Killed were an 18-year-old student who graduated Tuesday and a 36-year-old man who had attended the ceremony at a theater near the park. They were not identified.
The shooting happened at Monroe Park after Huguenot High School’s ceremony in the Altria Theater, Richmond Public Schools official Matthew Stanley said. The park is on Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus, across the street from the theater.
Besides the two killed, five others – a 14-year-old boy and four men ranging in age from 31 to 58 – suffered gunshot wounds. Four of those injured had non-life-threatening injuries, according to Edwards.
The 9-year-old struck by a car was being treated at a hospital Tuesday night with non-life-threatening injuries, Edwards said.
Three off-duty officers were working security at the ceremony and heard gunshots outside just before 5:15 p.m. ET. They radioed a call of shots fired and other officers who were working traffic duty responded, the interim police chief said at an earlier news conference.
The suspect fled the scene but was stopped and detained by VCU police.
“Is nothing sacred any longer? Is nothing sacred any longer?” Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney said at the first news conference.
The mayor promised whoever was involved would be brought to justice, “not just for the families involved but for the city.”
A different high school’s graduation ceremony that was scheduled for the theater after the Huguenot High ceremony was canceled, Stanley said. Graduation ceremonies for three schools were scheduled at Altria Theater on Tuesday, according to the school system’s website.
The graduation ceremony had ended, and graduates were outside taking photos with their families when the shooting happened, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said. Hundreds of people were in the park at the time, Edwards said.
“I don’t have any more words on this,” Kamras said. “I’m just tired of seeing people get shot, our kids get shot. And I beg of the entire community to stop.”
An alert sent at 5:15 p.m. by Virginia Commonwealth University says a shooting happened at Monroe Park. About an hour later, the alert page said there was no ongoing threat.